My Laos Sleeper Bus Experience - Is It Really That Bad?

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Sleeper buses in Southeast Asia are common, especially in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Over the years, these buses earned a notorious name among a small portion of travelers in those countries. And the irony is that bad reviews will always spread like wildfire, which caused a lot of travelers and backpackers to avoid taking sleeper buses at all costs during their trip to South East Asia. But are sleeper buses really that bad? Let’s take a deeper look at the Laos sleeper bus, which I took during my Laos backpacking trip.

For those who have no idea of what sleeper buses are, they’re a type of bus that offers flat or almost-flat bed seats for passengers instead of the traditional hard or soft seats. They’re designed for passengers to sleep in and often used for long-distance journeys. For example, from Vientiane to Pakse, which takes 12-14 hours.

In Laos, they’re a little different compared to those in Vietnam. Sleeper buses in Laos are double-deckers, with stairs to the upper deck. The beds are single-deck, so nobody is sleeping on top of anybody. In Vietnam, the buses are single-deck, with double-deck bunk beds.

How It’s Like To Take Laos Sleeper Bus?

Well, my experience in Laos sleeper buses aren’t always sunshine and rainbow. I’ll talk about that later in this post on how the good and bad experiences are like.

Most of the sleeper buses depart at night or evening, usually after 6 pm. And there are different types of sleeper buses, but the layouts are almost the same.

The beds are flat, more like a carpeted bed, which might be a little hard for some. No pillows are provided, but two thick blankets come with the beds. The length of the bed slot is perfect for those who’re under 180 cm, but if you’re taller than that, you might have to bend your legs a little while you sleep. That means you probably won’t have a good night sleep, honestly.

A bed slot, or whatever it’s called, is a flat bed for two people. So if you’re traveling alone, you’ll probably be arranged to sleep with another stranger. I had a friend who was arranged to sleep on the same bed with a monk, so you couldn’t tell who’s going to share the bed with you.

There is a toilet inside the bus, though I wouldn’t use it because of how terrible it was on both my bus trips. Squeeze out every last drop before boarding the bus and limit the water you drink will definitely help.

The air conditioners are great, I never heard any complaints about that other than it’s too cold. But that’s what the thick blankets are for!

Laos Overnight Sleeper Bus from Vientiane to Pakse

Editor’s Note: Check out these best things to do in Vang Vieng!

My Pleasant Experience In The Bus

My sleeper bus trip from Vientiane to Pakse was a pleasant one. Even though I was arranged next to the toilet, which is annoying because people kept going in and out, I slept pretty well.

The flatbed was great, and the blanket was clean. I mean, at least there were no bed bugs hiding in there. Unfortunately, my friend’s blanket did have bed bugs, bad luck for him.

If you’re worried about bed bugs, using your own sleeping bag is a great alternative too!

There was no delay and I arrived Pakse right on time. It’s rare for me to sleep so many hours straight on a shaky bus, but I had a comfortable night there!

To make sure you get the best prices and buses, book your ticket online here!

My Horrible Experience in The Sleeper Bus

Now you’re probably more interested in my horrible experience in Laos sleeper bus. My journey from Pakse to Vientiane was a nightmare. We were arranged at the last row of the top deck, where it shakes the most.

But the bed wasn’t the same here. Instead, it’s combined with another bed beside because there is no need to make room for the aisle. It was a bed for 5 people.

However, there were 7 people, with 5 adults and 2 kids sharing the 5-person bed. We were so frustrated but couldn’t communicate at all with the bus drivers because they don’t understand English at all, and they behave like a total gangster.

And I don’t know if all monks are like that, but we had a horrible experience sleeping next to a monk. We heard it from another Chinese backpacker too, who shared a bed with a monk on a sleeper bus. They are kind of a personal space invader. Playing their YouTube videos loudly, rolling sideways while sleeping and never care about your space.

Well, you could say I’m judgemental and stereotyping, but I’m not blaming or anything.

And it seemed that kids are not counted as an individual on Laos sleeper buses. So one adult and 2 kids could literally share a bed, which is a nightmare for whoever sharing the bed with them. In this case, us.

The toilet was flooded with urine as well, probably due to the malfunctioning pump. It was a horrible nightmare.

But there was a reason why we got this sleeper bus full of the locals instead of tourists. Continue reading and find out why, and how you can avoid it.

Did I mention the bed bugs in the blankets and the weird smell all over the bus?

Planning a trip to Luang Prabang? Check out this 3 Days Itinerary For Luang Prabang!

How Much is Laos Sleeper Bus?

For our trip from Northern Laos to Southern Laos, we bought a VIP bus (all tourist buses are VIP buses in Laos) ticket to Vientiane. It was a comfy air-conditioned 40-seats bus, took around 4 hours to reach Vientiane.

We had a few hours to get our dinner sorted before hopping onto our sleeper bus, which takes another 10 hours to get to Pakse.

For these two bus trips, it cost us 260,000 Kip. Try and compare the prices between the booking offices around the town and your hotel manager. Sometimes, you could get a cheaper price from either one of them.

From 4000 Islands to Vientiane, the bus journey cost us 190,000 Kip. But we messed up and decided to change our booking date to the next day, which cost us an additional 50,000 Kip.

We traveled from 4000 Islands to Pakse on a van, an extremely packed van, precisely.

Well, previously you read about my horrible experience. It was because I changed the date of the booking, and the operator arranged us to a local sleeper bus instead of a tourist sleeper bus. There were no foreigners at all, so make sure to change your date and never change your booking date!

If you’re a waterfalls go-er, here is a guide to 7 best waterfalls in Laos!

Changing The Date of Booking

But if things didn’t go smoothly, changing the booking date could be easy but it still depends on your luck. All you have to do is ask the person you booked with, or ask the operators of the bus service company.

If the sleeper bus seats are no longer available on your desired date, then you could try asking to be placed in a local sleeper bus.

Though I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

Expect an additional charge of around 50,000 Kip, it could be more! And it’s hard to nego because you don’t really have a choice.

Should You Take The Laos Sleeper Bus?

I would say yes. It’s a very different experience, which you might not experience somewhere else other than these Southeast Asian countries. And it saves you a lot of money on accommodation and transport too. Much cheaper than flights.

You probably don’t want to spend 10 hours on a bus when the sun’s up.

Bring your valuable stuff up to your bed with you, and leave the luggage at the bus luggage store. Most of the sleeper buses do not have power ports so bring your power bank as well if you wanna charge your phone.

Check out this amazing 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary!

Wrapping It Up

So that’s it on my Laos sleeper bus experience, and how you can do that too. Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Would love to hear your side of the stories as well if you took one before. Stay safe, and enjoy Laos! Check out this backpacking guide to Vietnam if you’re heading to Vietnam next!

Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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3 thoughts on “My Laos Sleeper Bus Experience – Is It Really That Bad?”

  1. Hi Yen, great piece about the sleeper buses. We’re possibly doing the Vientiane to Pakse route and considering the sleeper bus. My main query is how shaky is the bus? I’m usually ok on buses when sitting near the front, but can sometimes get a bit of travel sick feeling if near the back. Just wondered if lying down has the same effect? And are there recliner seats below the beds, if I didn’t want to lie down? Thanks, Annie

    1. Hey Annie, thanks! From my experience, the highway from Vientiane to Pakse was not as bad as we imagined, but it’s still shaky especially when you’re sitting on the upper deck at the back of the bus. (They’re usually double-decker bus) When lying down, the shake becomes less obvious (it’s still very shaky if you’re sitting up) but you still can feel it (I’m talking about upper deck, back of bus), however, the shakiness was tolerable for me. I’d suggest going for the lower deck if possible, but the downside is that the toilet is at the lower deck, so there might be people waking you up when they walked by. In short, try your best to go for the front or middle section of the bus, the back is really comparatively shaky.

      As far as I know, there are no recliner seats other than the flat beds. Hope this helps. 😀 Feel free to ask if there’s any other thing I can help.

      1. Thanks for your speedy response Yen. Thats given me something to think about and will help with my decision whether to use sleeper bus or not. Cheers 😉

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